Sunday, 20 November 2011

Choosing Your Music - Advice for Students

The first Arabic music CDs I bought were albums containing the tracks my teacher was using in class and for class choreographies.  When I was starting out, I also frequently browsed the world music sections of the big music shops and came away with some good starter compilations including numerous titles containing a taster of music from a particular region or title, for example Rough Guide - which can often include a pretty decent selection of tracks.  The good stores will also let you listen to the music before you buy.

I have to admit, I've not fully embraced the digital world when it comes to my music collection and I am very attached to owning the actual CD containing the tracks I am after.  And yes, it's important that these are the originals.
Windows of l'Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris
From here I moved on to the independent stores and suppliers.  These will often let you listen before you buy and often contain the more interesting international and independent labels.  In Edinburgh, I will always drop into my favourite music shop, the traditional folk music store Coda whenever I am passing.  They have a good world music section with a small rack of Arabic music and you can always find albums from the well known international artists featured there, and from the world or traditional music radio shows on Radio 2 and Radio Scotland.  They also stock independent titles and I've frequently seen CDs from UK based Arabic music talent appear there.  They will also let you listen to any CD before you buy and have a great sound system.  Also if you're lucky, Coda sometimes has some great special offer prices and the sale rail can also turn up the odd gem.  Hilary's Bazaar is another place worth browsing for CDs and definately worth a visit.  This store doesn't tend to be as competitively priced as the online retailers.  However, it has a big selection, including a number of rare titles, and you can ask for advice and listen too.  

My other main trick for buying great Arabic music is browsing for my collection wherever I happen to be on holiday.  This can often include the big chain music stores like fnac.  Certainly different countries in Europe will often have various middle eastern communities in their midst, so browsing through a store catering for local tastes whilst abroad can open the doors to many new titles and lables.  For example, on a trip to Paris a few months ago, I made a special trip to l'Institut du monde arabe, just to go to their bookstore and browse through a complete set of music titles from their own label.

This post responds to Emma Chapman's article on Choosing Your Music, a blog entry aimed at advising her students.  Emma is a Cambridge based professional belly dancer and her handy guide contains some great tips on where to start and useful links.  A nice little introduction for any student, particularly those accessing Arabic dance from a Modern Egyptian style perspective.
Emma Chapman

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